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  • Ariel Cao

Organ-to-cloud technology is here – and it has its sights set on glaucoma

Offering a stream of objective, uncompromised data, it could revolutionize the glaucoma space… But for it to work, we need to rethink the way we assess therapy effectiveness in our current treatment paradigm.

When was the last time you bought a CD? I’m guessing it was a long time ago. Nowadays, you probably pay ten dollars a month for a music streaming service that lets you listen to almost any song you like, whenever you like, on whatever device you like – amazingly, with minimum fuss.

Making health data as easy as music streaming
Can we do the same thing for healthcare data as Spotify does for music entertainment? And no, we don't listen to John Denver, really.

Given the choice, I doubt you would go back to CDs. Why? Because streaming makes sense. We live in an era of constant connection, where we can access the information we need anytime, from anywhere. Real-time event updates mean we can predict and plan for change. Yet, somehow, this does not translate to the medical field. An ophthalmologist treating a progressive disease like glaucoma can’t be anything but reactive; critical data on a patient’s disease state is only collected during sporadic office visits, yielding only a few single data points to interpret past trends and assess long-term risk – often with harmful results.

Patients are paying for therapies without knowing whether they are actually having the desired impact on their intraocular pressure (IOP) – and some are going blind as a result. Under our current treatment system, if a therapy doesn’t work, the patient doesn’t pay. But who benefits from this model? Not the patients – they don’t see an improvement in their condition. And it’s not the drug companies – they are being penalized by the reimbursement system for ineffective therapies. It is clear to me that it’s time for a new treatment paradigm – one that proves outcome with evidence. But how do you know if a therapy actually works? Easy – you follow the data. And that’s where we come in.

At Injectsense – a sensor-enabled digital health company – we have developed an organ-to-cloud data connection that enables clinicians to assess glaucoma therapy effectiveness at any time. A self-anchoring system is inserted into the vitreous base of the eye – the best place to measure pressure on the optic nerve – where it safely and autonomously collects pressure readings. This aspect is important: patient intervention has been shown to be the least effective pathway to improved glaucoma outcomes. The device automatically syncs to the cloud every week, offering physicians unprecedented visibility into the patient’s IOP profile and into previously unobserved changes that may affect glaucoma progression.

Once the device is implanted in the eye, it lies dormant until it takes an IOP reading. It is not affected by atmospheric pressure – the patient could go to the bottom of the ocean or the top of Mount Everest and the device will continue to work. Once a week, the data is sent to the cloud for the physician to access. So we have the data – what happens next?

Let’s go back to CDs and music streaming. CDs contain data. The servers of the music streaming service contain data. What makes music streaming so special is how that data can be presented and used. A music streaming service doesn’t just give you access to the CDs (or tapes or vinyl records) you used to own – or the music you want to own – it opens up a whole world of music. It makes recommendations, enables you to share songs or entire playlists with friends on the other side of the world, it allows you to discover something new. Music streaming has reinvented the way we consume music – and it has all but killed the traditional record store.

What if we started to treat glaucoma management like a streaming service? What if a patient doesn’t buy a therapy, but subscribes instead? They could choose a treatment that suits their specific medical needs and budget, and if it doesn’t work – and with our device, they will actually be able to tell – they try something else. The premium IOL market has proven that patients are willing to pay out of pocket for improved outcomes – and we are in the position to provide them with evidence of efficacy. A product like ours has the potential to guide drug and device development based on efficacy; no more wasted dollars for the industry and no more pointless treatments for patients.

We have already had success with the device, and we are completing our second in-vivo animal study, run by Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute researchers. We have already collected a month's worth of readings – all in agreement with tonometry measurements – with no device-related adverse events. We expect to begin our first controlled human study this fall. From there, the sky’s the limit.

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